Archive for the Werewolves Category

Pickin’ the Carcass: WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012)

Posted in 2012, Bad Acting, CGI, Michael Arruda Reviews, Monsters, Pickin' the Carcass, Straight to Video, Werewolf Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , on November 23, 2012 by knifefighter

Pickin’ the Carcass:
WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012)
By Michael Arruda

 

 WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012) is a direct-to-video release. No surprise then that we’re not talking “must-see horror” here. Still, the film’s not a total loss. I’m always up for an old-fashioned monster movie, and since this is the story of a murderous werewolf on the prowl, there were things I liked about it.

In WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US, a 19th century village—we never learn where—is terrorized by a werewolf. A group of expert werewolf hunters led by a guy named Charles (Ed Quinn), who looks and sounds as if he just left the Alamo, descend upon the village to hunt down the vicious beast.

The hunters are aided by a young man, Daniel (Guy Wilson), who works as an assistant to the village doctor (Stephen Rea). Daniel is mostly interested in hunting down the werewolf in order to protect his girlfriend, Eva (Rachel DiPillo). These hunters spend a lot of time setting elaborate werewolf traps in the woods, whereas they might have been better served interviewing the locals, since werewolves, after all, are people when the moon isn’t full.

Anyway, this is one of those movies where we don’t know who the werewolf is at first, but then, when they make the revelation, the werewolf turns out to be—well, I won’t give it away, but I will say that it’s not much of a surprise.

There are the obligatory battles between the hunters and the werewolf, and there’s even—in the film’s lowest point for me—a vampire who shows up to join in on the fun. He should have stayed home.

Released by Universal, WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US (2012)tries to capture the feel of the old Universal monster movies. It fails, mostly because its script isn’t strong enough to recapture the mood of those golden oldies. It’s not a total disaster. In terms of more recent movies, it’s better than VAN HELSING (2004), but it’s nowhere near as good as THE WOLFMAN (2010) remake.

The story itself is likeable enough, but the screenplay by Michael Tabb, Catherine Cyran, and director Louis Morneau, has too many problems for it to be successful. For starters, the story presents us with a wild group of eclectic werewolf hunters. These guys should dominate this movie, but they don’t. They’re not fleshed out at all, which is a shame, because they could have had a Marvel AVENGERS thing going. Instead, they’re just a bunch of folks with different weapons, aiming to kill a werewolf.

One of the hunters I did like, Kazia (Ana Ularu), the only woman hunter of the group, isn’t in the movie enough to make that much of a difference.

The dialogue is pretty awful. It shouldn’t be assumed that it’s okay for a monster movie to have forced, cliché-ridden dialogue. Had this movie enjoyed some realistic dialogue, it could have been taken seriously.

Director Louis Morneau does a nice job making this movie look polished and slick, but on the other hand, it’s in desperate need of some memorable scenes. WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US definitely lacks an identity.

And for the majority of the werewolf scenes, Morneau uses a CGI werewolf. Nuff said about that!

There’s actually some decent blood and gore in this one, some of it not that fake-looking. I was almost impressed.

The cast was OK. Stephen Rea is fine as Doc for most of the movie, but sadly, in the film’s conclusion, he’s given some of the worst dialogue in the entire film, when he gets to talk to the werewolf, saying things like, “Kill her!” and “If you don’t, I will!”

Ed Quinn is okay as Charles, the lead werewolf hunter, even though he sounds like he belongs in a western. Guy Wilson as young Daniel, who’s really the central character in this movie, runs hot and cold. In certain scenes, he’s fine, but in others, especially where he has to display emotion, not so much. The same can be said for Rachel DiPillo as his girlfriend, Eva.

Again, I did like Ana Ularu as werewolf hunter Kazia, and I wish she were in the movie more.

I’m a sucker for monster movies, and since this one’s not awful, I didn’t hate it. I just kept hoping—pleading, really—that it would be better.

I kept thinking, why didn’t they work more on the script? Why not write an “A” script for a monster movie? This movie would have rocked with a stronger script! Why settle for less? A little thought would have gone a long way in making WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US more interesting.

For example, we have this group of werewolf hunters coming into town. Why? Why are they killing werewolves? Are they doing it just for kicks? Do they get their jollies killing werewolves? Where did they come from? How did they get together? And if they’re not doing it for fun, then they must be doing it for money. Who in the village is paying them? Simple details like this build strong stories. Are these hunters like THE SEVEN SAMARAI? What’s their story?

WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US also lacks a strong werewolf. Werewolves make for interesting characters. They are full of conflict. Just ask Larry Talbot. But this movie doesn’t offer us any one like Talbot. The story tries but never gets beyond the superficial. It never gets inside the werewolf’s head.

All of this is too bad, because WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US looks great and features an old-fashioned monster story that, with just a little more care behind it, could have been a lot better. As it stands, WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US is merely a minor, mediocre monster movie that never burns as bright as a full moon should.

I give it two knives.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives WEREWOLF: THE BEAST AMONG US ~ two knives!

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THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (2012)

Posted in 2012, Adult Fairy Tales, Bad Acting, Blockbusters, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Just Plain Bad, Melodrama, Twilight, Twist Endings, Vampire Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A cemetery. L.L. SOARES has just finished filling up a grave. He rests on his shovel and looks at the tombstone with says “TWILIGHT.” MICHAEL ARRUDA arrives in a long black car and gets out.  He’s wearing a party hat and carrying balloons.  DRIVER of hearse steps out, appalled.)

DRIVER:  Balloons?  This is a funeral!  This is most inappropriate!

MA:  No it’s not.  This is a funeral for the TWILIGHT series.

LS (calling over):  Did you bring the vampire strippers?

MA (looks at Driver): And you think I’m inappropriate?

DRIVER:  I’m appalled!

MA: Don’t lose your shirt, Taylor Lautner.  (to LS) I didn’t bring any strippers.

LS: No strippers? Damn!

MA: We need to review a movie after all.  I didn’t think we needed the distraction.

LS:  Who asked you to think?

MA: Sorry.  Well, at least it’s over.

LS: You got that right.  We can finally put the damn TWILIGHT SAGA to rest. Best grave I ever dug. I made this one extra deep.

MA: All we have to do is to review BREAKING DAWN PART 2, then it will be over for good!

LS: True enough. (He is on the verge of tears). And then we’ll finally be done with this series. I thought this day would never come.

MA: Me, neither. I thought we’d be going to see these awful movies forever.

LS: If there’s a hell, then I’m sure someone is being forced to watch a never-ending marathon of these movies.

MA: So why don’t you give us a synopsis of this last movie.

LS: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 ended with the feisty, perpetually sneering heroine of the TWILIGHT series, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), finally getting what she’s been wishing for since the first movie — she finally got turned into a vampire like her beloved Edward (Robert Pattinson). We could tell because her eyes were bright red! Spooky!

As BREAKING DAWN PART 2 opens, Bella is trying to learn how to control her unquenchable thirst for blood. Edward takes his newly-vampiric bride into the deep woods so she can feast on a deer’s blood, but a mountain climber makes an unexpected appearance, and when he cuts himself, Bella goes nuts. Suddenly, that measly little deer doesn’t seem so filling.

MA: This series is so bad even “hunting” scenes like this are dull and boring, especially with Edward watching his new bride with that goofy grin on his face, as if we’re supposed to think, “Aww, isn’t she cute?  Bella’s hunting.”  Gag!

LS:  The big question was, would she be able to control herself and not bite a human, or would she just go nuts like a lot of “newbie” vampires do when they first get “turned.” Somehow, Bella is able to pass the test.

MA:  Because vampires in the TWILIGHT world would never feed on a human, or at least not vampires in the Cullen clan, the most mind-numbing vampire family you’ll ever meet.  Vampire family.  (Shaking his head)  That kinda says it all, doesn’t it?

LS: Speaking of which, Bella is then brought back to the home of the Cullens — the vampire clan that Edward belongs to, and now Bella does to — to meet her new baby, Renesmee. What kind of name is that anyway?

MA: An annoying one.

LS: Turns out everyone is afraid Bella will turn her newborn baby into dinner, since the girl is half human and has human blood running through her veins. If you remember from the previous movie, Bella got pregnant immediately after a wild bout of sex with Edward, and the baby threatened to kill her. Which is why Edward finally relented and turned her into a vampire— he pretty much killed her in order to save her life, if that makes any sense.

MA (mockingly nodding):  Of course it does.

(A couple of MOURNERS arrives, crying into their handkerchiefs)

MOURNER 1: Oh my God, it’s over! How will we ever go on with our lives?

MOURNER 2: This is just the saddest day ever. I don’t know if I want to live anymore!

MOURNER 1: I have an idea. Let’s make sure it never ends. Let’s go see BREAKING DAWN PART 2 again. And again. And then go back and read the books again and watch the DVDs again and then it will seem like the story goes on forever.

MOURNER 2: Oh my God, that sounds wonderful!

(LS suddenly raises his shovel and chops both of their heads off, with blood squirting everywhere)

LS: I’m sorry Michael, but I had to put those two poor, tortured souls out of their misery.

MA (grinning as blood spatters his suit): Totally understandable, although I was thinking more along the lines of a stern reprimand.

LS:  Anyway, in this new movie, the hateful Irina (Maggie Grace) spies Bella and her new baby and runs to tell the Voltari – those vampire overlords who act like the Vatican of bloodsuckers —because this is a big no-no in the tenants of vampire law. You see, in the past, babies and children who were turned into vampires were nothing but trouble, since they immediately stopped growing and stayed at their age (mentally and physically) forever. Suddenly, with a lust for blood and incredibly strength, they were huge threats to the human world (you don’t want to see a super-strong vampire baby have a tantrum!) and also threatened to expose the adult vampires who are always trying to stay a big secret to humankind. Thus, vampire babies are immediately destroyed. After Irana goes and finks on Bella (what a rat!), the Voltari are convinced that Renesmee is a baby turned into a vampire and the leaders of the group, especially big kahuna Aro (Michael Sheen), declare the child must be slain and those involved with her “creation” punished.

But, as we already know, they’re wrong, since Renesmee wasn’t “turned,” she was born a vampire/human hybrid because Bella was human during the child’s conception. Thus, the child is a rare creature and has started growing at an alarming rate. Like, she’s grown several years older in a matter of days!

The Voltari, however, have no interest in allowing a fair trial. If they could just talk it out, there would be no movie. Besides, Aro and his cohorts have had it in for the Cullens since the second TWILIGHT movie, NEW MOON (2009), and this is just the excuse they need to wipe out of the clan completely.

MA:  This is all so interesting.

LS:  I have to admit, it’s a little painful to remember all this stuff. I want to block it out of my mind.

The Cullens, in turn, find out about their impending doom when Alice Cullen (Ashley Greene) has a vision that the Voltari are coming to get them. This puts a plan into motion where the Cullens travel the globe to gather friends and allies as “witnesses” to demand that the Voltari listen to reason. These same witnesses might also have to fight if the Voltari won’t listen to them.

Also along for the ride are Bella’s other love interest, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), and his pack of werewolves. Jacob has sworn to protect Renesmee with his life, partly because he has “imprinted” himself on the child (something that happened in PART 1). It seems that werewolves automatically “imprint” a bond with someone when they have found their true soul mate. It’s completely out of their control. And the fact that Jacob has imprinted with a baby is kind of creepy, except when you realize that Renesmee will probably be a full-grown adult in a few months, based on how fast she’s growing.

MA:  Werewolves are really nannies.  Who knew?  Why didn’t someone tell Lon Chaney Jr.?  Larry Talbot would have made the perfect baby guardian. Look, it’s Uncle Larry!  Of course, when the moon was full, he’d have eaten the kid, but he would have been good for a little while, anyway.

Werewolves protecting little kids?  And people want to know what’s wrong with this series?  Sheesh!

LS:  And don’t forget the imprint thing. Sounds like a certain shirtless werewolf might end up on a sex offenders website if he isn’t careful. He better wait until she’s at least 18….er, days…old before he consummates their passion.

So the Voltari are coming to slaughter the Cullens. The Cullens have gathered allies to speak on their behalf, or fight for them if necessary, and the werewolves have pledged to help. And that’s the story in a nutshell.

MA:  In a nutshell?  It must belong to a coconut.  That’s one detailed synopsis.  Do we really need to know that much about this movie?

LS: Are you knocking my synopsis?

MA:  No, it’s a terrific synopsis.  It’s just making me relive some things I’d rather forget— like the entire plot.

LS:  You mean you weren’t intrigued by questions like: Will the Cullens survive? Will the Voltari listen to reason? Will Jacob take off his shirt? Well, I can answer the last question: Jacob will definitely take off his shirt! And simpletons in the audience will “ooh” and “ahh” like they always do.

I thought BREAKING DAWN PART 2 was very telling. I have now sat through five TWILIGHT movies, and you would think that, after all this time, I would have grown to care about these characters, and be concerned about what happens to them. But the truth is, I hate all of these characters just as much as I did before. BREAKING DAWN PART 2 is not going to win over any new fans.

MA:  That’s a good point.  These characters have been so annoying for so long throughout this series that I can barely stand to look at them, let alone watch a movie about them.  And I didn’t find the three lead characters to be quite as an annoying in this movie, yet, it didn’t matter.  Based upon the previous movies, I just didn’t care about these folks.

That’s pretty bad.   As you said, you’d expect characters in a series to grow on you, not grate on you.

LS:  Of course, that doesn’t really matter, because the fans of the series who already exist are more than enough. I actually got my ticket online before the showing, because the past few times a TWILIGHT movie has come out, all the showings on the first day sold out immediately. But even though I bought my ticket in advance this time, I still had to stand in a long line before they let us into the theater (even with tickets!) and the place was pretty packed. So this series has just as many—if not more— hardcore fans as ever.

But in all seriousness, I thought this movie was excruciating to sit through. We’ve seen worse movies this year—the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie comes to mind—but TWILIGHT is the only series that consistently bores the hell out of me every time I sit through another chapter. I still think Bella is irritating and I have no clue what Edward or Jacob see in her. I think Edward and Jacob are morons. I think the Cullen family is a snooze. And I really hate the Voltari—who are lame-ass villains—even though their number includes Dakota Fanning as Jane and Michael Sheen as Aro, two actors I normally like.

And there’s some new stuff this time around. It turns out a lot of these vampires have super powers. As if being a super-strong, blood-drinking vampire wasn’t enough! One guy can shoot fire from his hands. Another one can shoot out tendrils of darkness that can blind or suffocate someone. Other ones can foretell the future, create electric shocks or create shields around themselves.

Who knew these sparkly vampires were really THE X-MEN!

I actually found this “look at my cool powers!” aspect to be extra annoying, since there’s no logical reason for these extra powers.

(THE SCENE suddenly SHIFTS to a field of colorful wildflowers. BELLA and EDWARD are sitting in the flowers, snuggling and giggling)

BELLA: Oh God, I love you so much.

EDWARD: And I, you.

BELLA: I love you so much it hurts. I love love love you.

EDWARD: Oh, how I love the word Love.

BELLA: It’s is a lovely word, isn’t it? And it’s so wonderful to be this much in love.

(SHOT moves to JACOB and RENESMEE, sitting in a different part of the garden)

JACOB: And I love you, too, little Renesmee. You’re just a toddler now, but soon we’ll be lovers and I’ll sweep you up in my arms and we can have long-winded conversations about love, like Edward and Bella.

RENESSEE: Uncle Jacob, you’re really starting to creep me out, man. Besides, I hate the name Renesmee. It sounds stupid. I much prefer to be called HONEY BOO BOO.

JACOB: Anything you wish, oh love of my life. Oh joy of my jowls. Oops, I spilled some Kool-ade on my shirt. Would you mind if I take it off? This stain offends me so.

RENESMEE A BOO BOO: Oh boy. Do what you gotta do, buster.

(THE SCENE returns to the graveyard. LS is off to one side, vomiting)

MA: Ahem, the camera is back on us again.

LS: Oh, sorry (wipes his mouth)

I’m also sick of the exaggerated emotions and affectations of the main characters here. Everyone is in love in big CAPITAL LETTERS. The characters are pretentious, sappy, and stupid. At least Bella and Edward get to have some sex in the BREAKING DAWN movies. After three movies before that where the two of them were forever locked in torturous abstinence, it’s nice to at least see them go at it, even if it’s all very sanitized and romanticized. What a tasteful nibble of a neck. What a very safe interlocking of naked limbs with not a glimpse of any naughty bits…

The audience I saw it with was so emotionally invested in these dumb characters that it was embarrassing. They had reactions that were as exaggerated as the characters on the screen. And they laughed at everything – even things that weren’t funny. Like everything out of Bella (and Edward and Jacob)’s mouth was the most clever, witty dialogue ever written. Let me tell you a secret – it wasn’t. The only scene that struck me as even mildly amusing was one where Jacob takes  his clothes off in front of Bella’s father, Charlie (Billy Burke) to show him how he turns into a big CGI wolf, and Charlie looks very uncomfortable, wondering if he just stepped into a scene from MAGIC MIKE. But otherwise, it wasn’t as clever or as emotionally charged as the audience pretended it was.

MA:  Yes, that was a funny scene.  Hey, after five movies, they got a scene right!

LS:  I really, truly hate this series. And seeing the saga finally come to an end filled me with joy. I give this movie one knife for the fact that the story is finally over alone! Otherwise, there’s nothing here I can recommend. It’s complete crap.

What did you think, Michael?

MA:  Well, the best thing I can say for this movie is that it’s the first TWILIGHT movie that didn’t bore me to tears, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.  It means that for once, things actually happened in this movie.  They may have been stupid things — like lame vampire superheroes— but they were things.  See, usually, these movies are so dull I start chomping on my fingernails once the popcorn is gone.  My fingernails survived this installment.

Another positive is BREAKING DAWN PART 2 gets all of its whining out of the way early.  Bella whines at Jacob because he imprinted on her baby daughter.  Now, in past movies, we’d have to suffer through multiple scenes of Bella’s angst.  She’d talk about it with Edward.  She talk about it with Jacob.  She’d go back and talk to Edward some more.  Edward and Jacob would talk.  Blah, blah, blah.  But here in BREAKING DAWN PART 2, it’s one and done.  That’s a good thing.

They also got the boring “Bella talks to her dad” scenes out of the way early as well.

That’s because in this movie, there’s actually a plot and things actually happen.  There’s a build-up to a big battle showdown.  Did I enjoy this build up?  Not really. But somehow this one just wasn’t as painful.  And of course there’s a big bloodbath at the end— not really.  It’s a pretty lame battle.  You’ll find more intense stuff in a Disney movie.

The acting is what you’d expect, although I have to admit the three leads didn’t annoy me as much this time around.  I think it’s because they spoke less in this movie.  The closest thing I came to enjoying a performance was watching Michael Sheen ham it up as Aro.  His over-the-top performance is one of the movies few highlights.

LS: He actually has a couple of funny scenes this time. I can’t blame the guy for wanting a decent paycheck.

MA: Director Bill Condon could have easily filmed BREAKING DAWN as one movie as opposed to dragging it out into two parts.  PART 1, basically a wedding, could have been condensed in about 15 minutes of screen time.  PART 2 is definitely better, but again, this isn’t saying much.

Melissa Rosenberg wrote the screenplay, and she wrote the screenplays for the entire series.  Not something I’d want on my resume.

LS: But I’m sure she’s happy it’s on hers. These movies made a shitload of money!

MA: It’s funny, here we have this paranormal romance, this love story, this love triangle between Bella, Edward, and Jacob, but what is the series finale about?  Vampires with superpowers and the meddling Voltari.  The love triangle was resolved movies ago.

LS: And it was never much of a triangle. We always knew Bella had the hots for Edward. Her relationship with Jacob was always just an intense friendship. She never returned Jacob’s feelings like he wanted her to. So the triangle angle was almost kind of forced, don’t you think.

MA: Yep. To me, this just shows that this love story wasn’t much to begin with.  You’d think this series would be driven by a tale of unbelievable love, but it’s not, which just reinforces the ridiculousness of building a “saga” around these characters.

But, hey, at the end of the day, the TWILIGHT series will long be remembered for featuring the cutest werewolves ever!  One day, when Disney buys the franchise, we’ll see little Jacob-werewolf-nannies on the shelf next to Winnie the Pooh.

It goes without saying, but I am overjoyed that this series is finally over.  That being said, this last installment, TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART 2, didn’t torture me with mind-numbing boredom, and as you said at the outset, we’ve seen worse movies this year.

I give it two knives.

LS: Fair enough. You’re much more generous than me this time around. Maybe you’re just relieved it’s finally over…

Or maybe your heart has finally let the love in…

MA:  I don’t think so.

LS:  Of course, the way it ends, the storyline could always be continued. And there could be spin-offs…and you know the studios will seriously consider it…but for now, this moment in time, let’s pretend like TWILIGHT is really over. That we never have to see another TWILIGHT movie again. And, for the moment, let’s sparkle with happiness.

MA: Now let’s go somewhere and celebrate!

LS:  Sounds good.  (Looks at TWILIGHT tombstone.)  It’s hard to believe.  We’ve buried the TWILIGHT movies forever.

MA:  It’s about time.

LS:  That celebration is long overdue.  Let’s get out of here.

(MA & LS exit.  From behind a gravestone appear a young man and his hunchbacked assistant. The young man carries a shovel, the hunchback a camera. They dig up the grave.  The young man holds a TWILIGHT DVD in his hand.)

YOUNG MAN:  It’s just resting.  Waiting for a new life to come!

HUNCHBACK:  Yes, master.

YOUNG MAN:  We shall give it life again.  We shall re-make them!

(Loud groans and wails are heard off-camera):  Nooooooooooooooooo!!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 ~one knife!

Quick Cuts Presents: THE GREAT TWILIGHT SEND-OFF!

Posted in 2012, Quick Cuts, Twilight, Vampires, Werewolves with tags , , , , , , , on November 16, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS:  THE GREAT TWILIGHT SEND-OFF!
Featuring Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Jenny Orosel, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Well, this Friday, November 16, the final installment of the TWILIGHT series opens in theaters, TWILIGHT BREAKING DAWN PART II.  Don’t everybody cry at once!

So, here’s this week’s QUICK CUTS question:  if you could devise an appropriate send-off for the TWILIGHT series, what would it be? 

Our panel responds:

JENNY OROSEL: The whole vampire sparkly family takes a vacation to New York just in time to meet up with the giant tentacled alien from the end of the WATCHMEN comic book. That would be sweet.

MICHAEL ARRUDAVery sweet!

MARK ONSPAUGH:  Anyone directly responsible for the movies and all the die-hard, crying on their vlog, Sparkle-Vamp-worshipping fans would be locked in a warehouse-turned-theater and strapped to “old school” wooden seats. The Twilight series would play round the clock – IV’s of stage blood and popcorn “butter” for sustenance and astronaut diapers all around… The rest of the world would celebrate as every book and DVD is recycled into clean fertilizer to feed a starving world.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Ouch!  But oh-so-appropriate!

PAUL MCMAHON:  I’m going to quietly watch the TWILIGHT SAGA sail away. I will celebrate by visiting a large cathedral and lighting a prayer request candle. While it burns, I’m going to kneel and bow my head and say a novena that the Hollywood Gods Who Develop Book Series Into Movie Series seize the opportunity to create an awesome string of kick-ass films based on Jonathan Maberry’s JOE LEDGER books. Anyone want to join me?

The Joe Ledger series

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  We’ll meet you at the door.

As for me, really, in all seriousness, there is no better send-off than the knowledge that I will never have to sit through one of these movies again.  This in itself is a celebration. When I walk out of the theater after the end credits roll, I might even cry, I’ll be so happy!

L.L. SOARES:  Don’t go celebrating just yet. I heard a rumor that Stephenie Meyer, creator of the Twilight series, was in discussions to figure out a way to keep the franchise going…More sequels? A spin-off? I have no idea – but you know the studios aren’t going to put this cash cow to pasture any sooner than they have to.

(Pops open a bottle of champagne) So we may not have to say good-bye after all! I know Michael will be so relieved…

MICHAEL ARRUDA (ignores him):  Did you say something, LL? I’m having trouble hearing you!

 In the meantime, go forth all you moviegoers and do your duty by seeing something else!

 Thanks for joining us.  Have a good night, everybody!

—END—

Me and Lil’ Stevie Make the Rounds with a SILVER BULLET (1985)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Based on Comic Book, Me and Lil' Stevie, Peter Dudar Reviews, Stephen King Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , on September 5, 2012 by knifefighter

ME AND LIL’ STEVIE
Make the Rounds With A
SILVER BULLET (1985)

(Exterior, Night…Establishing shot of an old wooden bridge under the light of the full moon.  Camera slowly approaches the bridge, and as we round the corner, we see a figure on the bridge.   The figure is a hunched-over silhouette in the moon’s light.  Camera moves closer still, and we begin to hear the grunting, panting, and snarling of some kind of beast.  The silhouette rises and turns to face the camera, and suddenly the night air is filled with the howl of a werewolf.  The figure begins moving toward us, and we see that it is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King.)

Lil’ Stevie:  Better hurry up…Sounds like L.L. Soares is pissed at you again.

Peter:  That wasn’t L.L., that was a WEREWOLF.  Not to worry, though.  We’ll be safe on this side of the bridge.  I purposely rigged the bridge to collapse if anybody tries to cross it.

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s brilliant.  What if the werewolf is on THIS side of the bridge, and we need to escape.  Hmm, genius?

Peter:  I could always leave you on the bridge and use you as bait…

Lil’ Stevie:  (grumbles a moment).  Good evening, Constant Viewer, and welcome to our little column.  Today we’ll be taking a look back at the 1985 Danial Attias film SILVER BULLET, based on my comic book-style novelette, CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF, which was released in 1983 and illustrated by legendary artist Bernie Wrightson.  Now, my book started out as a neat little calendar project, which…

Peter:  Which has little to do with the movie we’re here to critique.  It does bear mentioning, though, that the REAL Stephen King wrote the screenplay (and noticeably made changes to a LOT of his original source material), and that PHANTASM (1979) director Don Coscarelli was originally tapped to direct, but disputes between him and King (and special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi) led him to pass the job on to then-newcomer Attias.

Lil’ Stevie:  Well, my novelette takes place over the course of an entire year, so I had to alter the time frame for the sake of continuity.

Peter:  Yeah, so why’d you change character names?  The narrator of the movie is the protagonist’s sister Jane, but in your book it was Kate…

Lil’ Stevie:  Um…I…

Peter:  I thought so.  Let’s get started, shall we?  The story centers around young paraplegic Marty Coslaw (the late Corey Haim, THE LOST BOYS, 1987), and his sister Jane (Megan Follows, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, 1985), who live in the sleepy little fictional town of Tarker’s Mills, Maine (which King fans know has appeared in other works, most recently UNDER THE DOME, 2009).  In the summer of 1976, this town fell hostage to what at first was believed to be a psycho killer, but is soon discovered by Marty to be a werewolf.

Lil’ Stevie:  And that’s the key to this movie…being held hostage.  The town is held hostage to a murderous beast, the same way that young Marty is a hostage to his handicap and Jane is a hostage in reluctantly having to care for her “booger” of a brother.

Peter:  That’s an interesting point.  The film begins with Jane’s narration of the town’s plight, setting the stage with the death of the first victim, Arnie Westrum (James Gammon, the gravel-voiced coach from MAJOR LEAGUE, 1989).  Arnie’s death is quickly written off as an accident, that he’d fallen asleep on the railroad tracks and got hit by a train.  Life in Tarker’s Mills goes on, and as Lil’ Stevie pointed out already, because of maintaining continuity, although this death happens in January in the book, in the movie it occurs at the beginning of summer.

Lil’ Stevie:  Can you imagine how long this movie would be if it had to cover the whole year?

Peter:  Yeah, it’d be about as long as it took me to read your last novel.

(In the background we hear a long, howl, as if some wild beast was laughing in approval).

Lil’ Stevie:  Grrrr.

Peter:  The Coslaw siblings are introduced properly, and we see the plight they are both in, in terms of Marty’s disability.  The name Silver Bullet has two meanings here:  Foremost is the natural defense against werewolves, and the second is the given name to Marty’s motorized wheelchair.  Marty is constantly portrayed as the “helpless victim” by his parents, and Jane is constantly burdened with having to watch out for him, and that her own feelings and desires are secondary to his needs.  We feel badly for her immediately, particularly in the opening of the film where Marty and his pal Brady play a very mean trick on her, that causes her to fall down in a mud puddle and ruin the outfit she wore to the summer festival.

Lil’ Stevie:  They scared her with a garden snake!  Hyuk hyuk hyuk.

(Peter turns to Lil’ Stevie, pulls a mouse out of his pocket and drops it on Lil’ Stevie’s lap).

Lil’ Stevie:  (Screaming) Gak!  Get it off me…get it off me!

Peter:  OMG, you’re a sissy.

(Werewolf howls in laughter in the background.)

Lil’ Steve:  Keep it up, buddy…Your time is coming.

Peter:  After running away from her little incident, Jane happens to eavesdrop on another Tarker’s Mills resident having an argument with the presumed father of her “bun in the oven”.  The dude leaves her, sending her into hysterics, and we see the set-up for the second victim.  Only, this time, it’s not going to look like an accident.  With her death comes the dark days of the town, where people begin to not trust each other.  Kids playing in the front yard are whisked inside their homes.  Streets normally filled with people and cars become vacant avenues after dark.  And, most noticeable, is the dissent among some of the residents, who are frustrated that Sheriff Haller (Terry O’Quinn, THE STEPFATHER, 1987) has been unsuccessful at finding any leads.

Lil’ Stevie:  Things come to a head at the local watering hole when gun-store owner Andy Fairton (Bill Smitrovich, IRON MAN, 2008) tries to stir up group-justice mentality by ridiculing one of Haller’s deputies, which is quickly quelled by bar owner Owen (Lawrence Tierney, RESERVOIR DOGS, 1992) and his baseball bat, aptly named “The Peace Maker.” I named Owen after my son, by the way…

Peter:  How generous of you.  Where was I?  Oh, yeah…so the pregnant girl, who is in the process of committing suicide by overdose, (“Suicides go straight to hell, and I don’t even care,” she announces to nobody in particular), is torn to pieces in her own bedroom by the werewolf, thus opening a whole religious can of worms that actually adds some weight to the storyline.

Lil’ Stevie:  I’m glad you picked up on that.  I did that on purpose.  The whole plight of Larry Talbot in THE WOLF-MAN always struck a chord with me.  The duality of the werewolf is very much akin to the Jekyll and Hyde story.  If you hate what you’ve become, then the only real option is to end it by taking your own life.  But if your beliefs tell you that that road will send you straight to hell, you’re stuck with what you are.  It’s kind of like…being held hostage.

Peter:  Wow, that’s really deep.

Lil’ Stevie:  You think so?

Peter:  Not really.  Teaspoons are deeper than you.

(The werewolf once again howls out in laughter).

Peter:  Thank you, thank you…I’m here all week.  Two shows nightly at the Tarker’s Mills Hotel.  Anyway, by this point of the movie, Marty is hip to the fact that the killer is a werewolf, and has begun trying to convince his Uncle Red…

Lil’ Stevie:  In CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF, his name is Uncle Al!

Peter:  …convince his Uncle Red (America’s Favorite Train-Wreck, Gary Busey, LETHAL WEAPON, 1987) that the murders going on in Tarker’s Mills are at the paws of a mythological beast.  Busey’s performance in this movie is, to me, what makes this film worth watching.  He plays a “Druncle” (props to J. Bove for coining the term).  A “Druncle” is the alcoholic uncle that shows up for family events and has a little too much fun.  He’s basically someone that has given up on life, and thinks that staying high is about the best chance for happiness that you’re going to find.  Uncle Red is in the process of divorcing his third wife and hits the sauce pretty hard during the first night of his stay at his sister’s house (Marty and Jane’s mom).  We’re led to believe that the relationship that Marty and Uncle Red share is pretty special, that he loves the boy as if he was his own son.  And as the werewolf claims more victims (particularly Marty’s pal Brady), Uncle Red seems to be the only grown-up Marty can possibly trust to tell about the wolf.

Lil’ Stevie:  Brady’s death is the final straw for the town’s sanity.  Andy finally rallies the town’s citizens into going out and hunting down the beast, and the murders increase exponentially over the course of one bad night.  Including Owen, the bar-keep, who had taken “The Peace Maker” out with him, and was ironically clubbed to death with it.

Peter:  We’re also introduced to the character of Reverend Lester Lowe (Everett McGill, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, 1991).  Lowe tries to talk the townspeople out of forming a lynch mob, and yet they go out looking for the beast anyway.

Lil’ Stevie:  I wonder why he would do THAT

Peter:  After the lynch mob falls to the claws of the beast, the town cancels the summer fair and fireworks show.  Marty continues to pester Uncle Red into believing him about the werewolf.  Uncle Red, however, is busy with building a newer, faster Silver Bullet.  And again, we’re treated to some really great characterization.  Uncle Red is, after all, a hostage to himself and has already given up.  But he doesn’t want that for his favorite nephew.  He builds Marty this super-fast wheelchair so that Marty can find some freedom.  “Do you have a pilot’s license?  You’re gonna need one cuz this thing can fly!”  This scene really is a beautiful moment, as Marty goes flying down the highway, feeling the elation one can only feel when truly free.  When he returns, Uncle Red tells him, “I built this for you because I love you.  But be careful on it.  If you got hurt it would kill ME!”

Lil’ Stevie:  That’s some brilliant writing, isn’t it?  I do amaze myself sometimes.

Peter:  Uncle Red also gives Marty a bag of fireworks to make up for the town cancelling that night’s display.  Marty sneaks out late at night and zips off in the Silver Bullet.  He comes here, to this very bridge to light them off, and behold, he comes face to face with the werewolf.

Lil’ Stevie:  Marty takes the rocket, lights it, and shoots the beast right in the eye!

Peter:  The rocket doesn’t kill the beast…but it does forever mark the human that has been murdering the town’s residents.  And with Jane’s help, the two are able to uncover the identity of the beast.  The werewolf is actually…

Lil’ Stevie:  DON’T TELL THEM.  You’ll spoil everything.

Peter:  It’s not like they’re idiots that can’t figure it out.  We’ve already discussed the deep religious implications of the story, and how the wolf-man can’t kill himself.  It’s pretty obvious.  But if you insist…

Lil’ Stevie:  They’ll thank us for not ruining it.

Peter:  The werewolf is REVEREND LOWE!

Lil’ Stevie:  You really stink.  You know that?

Peter:  Here’s the whole enchilada of this movie:  It’s a far cry from being a bad movie, but it really offers nothing new to the legacy of the werewolf.  Everything we see here we’ve seen before.  Rambaldi’s special effects are okay at best but never capture the sheer impressiveness of Rick Baker’s work on AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981).  And, except for Busey, none of the actors here are very well known.  Even Attias will have his career relegated to television programs and made-for-TV movies after this release.  SILVER BULLET is geared toward a target audience of teenagers.  It’s King’s “Werewolf Movie”.  This movie has some merit in being a cult 80s flick…particularly one starring Tiger Beat heartthrob Corey Haim.  And, to be honest, I can’t even sell his performance short.  Haim is actually one of the best actors in this movie.  He portrays a disabled person extremely well, and he does capture an honest, believable American teen.  Like I said earlier, what makes this film worth examining is the relationship between him and Busey.  It made me nostalgic for my own youth and some of the grown-ups that were important to me in my own life.

(The Werewolf howls out loud, and we see that he’s beginning to make his way across the bridge).

Werewolf:  Pete!  Pete!  Wolf…wolf…Right here and now!  Wait for me!  Peter, I am YOUR DRUNCLE!  (Crosses bridge, holding out a bottle of Patron).

Peter:  L.L.?  Is that you?

(The wolf makes it to the middle of the bridge when their trap kicks in and the wooden planks quickly give way.  The werewolf plunges out of sight and into the river below).

Lil’ Stevie:  Holy crap!   I think we just killed the boss.

Peter:  Ooops.  Thank you for joining us.  We’ll see you next time.

(Camera fades out as Peter and Lil’ Stevie rush down to the riverbank)

The End

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

Remote Outpost looks back at the original DARK SHADOWS

Posted in 1960s Horror, 1970s Movies, 2012, Based on TV Show, Classic TV Shows, Ghosts!, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Supernatural, Vampires, Werewolves, Witches with tags , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST – OUT OF MY DEPP WITH DARK SHADOWS
Written by Mark Onspaugh

Welcome to Collinwood.

“You can’t watch everything.” – either Marshall McCluhan or George Orwell

The above quote, which is most certainly apocryphal, was especially true in the 1960s, when the only small screen was the television and there were no DVD’s, videotapes, bootlegs or endless carping by fans on websites.

I missed the original DARK SHADOWS (1966 – 1971), partially because I was in school and partially because I was oh-so-serious when it came to monsters, especially vampires and werewolves.  (Little did I know that twinkly vampires and basketball-playing werewolves were just down the road, so to speak.)  Shows weren’t endlessly promoted and marketed, because there was so little competition for certain shows, what with only three major networks and no cable.  Since I had no close friends who watched DS, I figured it was stuff meant more for my Mom, like ONE LIFE TO LIVE (1968 – 2012) and ALL MY CHILDREN (1970 – 2011) (two shows that had long lifespans before recently being canceled by ABC~editor).

DARK SHADOWS was the brainchild of Dan Curtis, who would later bring us such tasty fare as TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975), BURNT OFFERINGS (1976) and DEAD OF NIGHT (1977).  Curtis based the show on a dream he had about a mysterious woman on a train.  His TV track record was such that he was able to pitch that premise and sell it to ABC.

Initially, the show was about this young woman, named Victoria Winters, an orphan who becomes stranded in Collinsport, Maine, and ends up working for Elizabeth Collins Stoddard and her brother Roger Collins.  The show had no supernatural elements, at first.  In fact, I was surprised to learn that Barnabas Collins did not appear for the first year of the series.  The series was labeled “slow,“ “a bore,” and “confusing” (actors would play multiple characters and also reappear in parallel timelines and flashbacks) by some critics.

The turning point came six months into the series, when ghosts were introduced.  Because the series appeared at a time when kids were getting home from school and moms were off making dinner (4pm Eastern), teens claimed it as their own, and it began dominating its timeslot, leading to cancellation of the original MATCH GAME and the variety show ART LINKLETTER’S HOUSE PARTY (both fare aimed at older viewers like Gramma, and your annoying Aunt Beatrice with the mustache and cheese breath).

The original cast of DARK SHADOWS.

Con-men come to Collinswood to search for the family jewels, and inadvertently release Barnabas Collins from imprisonment in a mausoleum.  Once Barnabas was introduced, the show would, in its five year run, also feature ghosts, werewolves, witches, warlocks, zombies,  monsters, time travel and a parallel universe.  (I missed a lot, it would seem!)

DARK SHADOWS had some notable cast members, all except Frid playing numerous roles of contemporary characters, ghosts, doppelgangers and ancestors.

Jonathan Frid, of course, played Barnabas Collins.  Frid died just this year, which is sad and ironic, as the movie version has just debuted.  Surely as iconic to television vampires as Lugosi was to movie vampires, Frid was a Canadian actor who did little beyond the DARK SHADOWS franchise.  As far as I can see, he did two other films, THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER (with Shelley Winters in 1973) and SEIZURE(1974).  Of  Barnabas, he said, “I love to play horror for horror’s sake. Inner horror… I mean, I never thought I created fear with the fang business of ‘ Barnabas.’ I always felt foolish doing that part of it. The horror part I like was ‘the lie’.”

Jonathan Frid, the original Barnabas Collins.

Joan Bennett (Elizabeth Stoddard Collins and several other Collins women) had a long and varied career in film and television, doing such diversely different projects as GIDGET GETS MARRIED (1972) and SUSPIRIA (1977).  (Note to self: remake of Suspiria with Gidget?)

David Selby (Quentin Collins, everyone’s favorite werewolf) did a lot of TV and found some happiness in nighttime soaps like FLAMINGO ROAD (1981-1982) and FALCON CREST (1982-1990). He was also in a movie based on a New York Post headline, HEADLESS BODY IN A TOPLESS BAR (1995).

David Selby as Quentin Collins. He needed a bit of a haircut when the full moon arose.

Grayson Hall (Dr. Julia Hoffman) also did a lot of TV work including NIGHT GALLERY (1970) and the TV movie GARGOYLES (1972).

During the run of the series, Curtis directed two features with many members of the television cast: HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970) and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971).  HOUSE follows the arc of Barnabas pursuing a woman he believes is his reincarnated love, Josette, while NIGHT involves a family moving into a house filled with ghosts of witches who are not at rest.

In 1971, it became illegal to advertise cigarettes on television.  This huge loss of revenue led to a large purge among the networks, replacing some soaps (like DARK SHADOWS) with the much-cheaper-to-produce game shows.  DS was particularly vulnerable because its main demographic—teens—were not the purchasers of food and household goods, the main advertisers on daytime television.  Also, the early 70’s (say it ain’t so!) saw a decline in interest in shows dealing with horror or science fiction.

Because of its rather abrupt cancellation, several plotlines were left unresolved, though the shows producers tried to compensate for this with a one minute voice-over at the end of the final episode that tied everything up with a (fairly) neat bow.

The original run of 1,225 shows never ran fully in syndication until on the Sci Fi (now SyFy) channel from 1992 to 2003 (which I also missed—I hang my head in shame).

Barnabas and the love of his life, Josette.

Besides its melding of the soap opera and monster/horror genres, DARK SHADOWS was believed to be a live production.  This was because the rigorous shooting schedule often demanded one take of most scenes, so errors in dialog or continuity (wobbling sets, stagehands in the background) were left in.  Fans delighted that they were seeing a “live” production, and the producers played into this belief by having a clock in an episode precisely coordinated with the clocks in one time zone—viewers of that time zone thought they were seeing events as they happened.

In 1991, the show was revived on NBC with a much more lavish budget.  Ben Cross played Barnabas, and Joanna Going was Victoria Winters.  Cross would later appear in movies like EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (2004) and STAR TREK (2009). Also appearing in the revival were veterans like Roy Thinnes (THE INVADERS 1967-1968) and Barbara Steele (BLACK SUNDAY, 1960, CASTLE OF BLOOD, 1964, and SHE BEAST 1966).  The coverage of the Gulf War led to the show being preempted many times, and it could never recover its footing.  It was cancelled after running just three months.  Plans to revive this version with this cast led to a pilot being written by Dan Curtis and Barbara Steele, but it never went forward.  Another pilot with a new cast was shot in 2004 but was never picked up.

DARK SHADOWS also spawned a line of novels, a newspaper comic strip, comic books, audio plays, coloring books, View-Master reels, two board games, a jigsaw puzzle and trading cards.

DARK SHADOWS is often credited with introducing the concept of a “compassionate vampire” to a wide audience—a vampire who is troubled by his hideous appetites and longs for a cure.

DARK SHADOWS (the original series) is now available on DVD – ain’t technology wonderful?

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

*****

EDITOR’S NOTE:

As I mentioned briefly in the CKF review of the new DARK SHADOWS movie, I’ve been a fan of the original TV show since its initial run. Mark asked me to add some of my thoughts here, since he didn’t see DS in its first incarnation.

I remember coming home from school, eager to see the newest chapter of the Collins family (from the start, I was obsessed with all things horror and “monsters”). This must have been toward the end of the show’s run, in the early 70s, since I would have been around 7 or 8 years old. The fact that so many episodes are still so vivid in my mind is a testament to its effect on me.

Storylines I particularly remember involved Barnabas and Victoria Winters/Josette; Quentin Collins’s struggle to overcome being a werewolf (I don’t know if I’m sad or happy that the character of Quentin was left out of Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS movie); a FRANKENSTEIN-like storyline where a monster was being made from parts of dead people in a lab beneath a graveyard crypt; and the time-jumping episodes set in the past, where one particular Collins ancestor was involved in experiments much like the ones performed by a certain Dr. Jekyll.

Quentin and Barnabas Collins clash in a scene from the original DARK SHADOWS TV series.

For some reason, everyone of my generation who watched the show remembers it with great fondness, and I’m sure that Burton didn’t give much thought to the original show’s fans when we made his recent film version. He probably just saw the concept as something he could recreate in his own “special” way, disregarding the fact that the show still has a loyal following.

The fact that the “real” Barnabas Collins, Jonathan Frid, died recently, just makes the new movie (which I think is awful) seem all the more tragic. Ahhh, what it could have been in the right hands!

~L.L. Soares

DARK SHADOWS (2012)

Posted in 2012, Based on TV Show, Campy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Gothic Horror, Johnny Depp Movies, Just Plain Bad, Tim Burton Movies, Vampires, Werewolves, Witches with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: DARK SHADOWS (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: a cliff overlooking the ocean, below, large waves crash against the rocks. L.L. SOARES stands at the edge, looking down, when MICHAEL ARRUDA approaches.)

MA: DON’T DO IT!

LS (turns) Don’t do what?

MA: Don’t jump.

LS: I wasn’t going to jump. I was just looking out over the ocean. Nice view.

MA: Are you sure? I know you just came back from seeing the new Tim Burton movie, DARK SHADOWS! If that doesn’t make someone want to jump off a cliff, I don’t know what does!

LS (puts a hand to his heart): But it’s not as tragic as all that, is it? I certainly don’t feel the desire to end it all.

MA: I guess you liked the movie more than I did. If you’re not jumping, why don’t you start the review then?

LS: Certainly…

DARK SHADOWS is the new Tim Burton movie, starring his frequent leading man, Johnny Depp. This time Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a tragic hero turned into a vampire by a jealous witch and condemned to spend two centuries chained inside a coffin beneath the earth.

It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? The truth is, based on the trailers for this one, I wasn’t expecting any of this movie to be that much fun. The commercials make it look like an all-out comedy, and a bad one at that. The thing is, the opening sequences of DARK SHADOWS, telling us how poor Barnabas becomes a vampire, are actually played pretty straight. This gave me some hope that maybe the movie might be a pleasant surprise.

MA: A lot of the movie is played straight. In fact, if you pay careful attention to the script, the story itself is rather serious. Too bad Tim Burton wasn’t interested in making a serious movie.

LS: So two hundred years ago, wealthy Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) has a dalliance with his servant girl, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green). When Barnabas tells her he can never marry her because of his station in life (besides, he never loved her anyway), Angelique vows to make him pay. First, she uses witchcraft to have a giant stone gargoyle fall upon his unsuspecting parents. Then, when Barnabas falls in love with another woman, Angelique puts the poor girl, Josette (Bella Heathcote), under her spell, and has the girl walk out to a cliff—much like this one we’re standing on—and throw herself into the sea. In horror, Barnabas throws himself in after her, intent on dying with his love if he cannot have her. But no such luck. Angelique has also cursed Barnabas, turning him into a vampire who cannot die. So the swan dive into the waves and rocks doesn’t kill him.

MA: So much drama, so quickly, I don’t know if I can stand it!

LS: When Barnabas quenches his infernal thirst for blood, Angelique then gathers the townsfolk together to capture Barnabas and force him into his coffin, which they chain up and bury deep in the ground. Unable to free himself, Barnabas waits. For two centuries, he waits, until some workmen stumble upon his resting place and inadvertently set him free.

MA: More drama!

LS: The movie then shows us Barnabas as a man lost in time, arisen in 1972 in a world he never made. He tries to adapt, returning to the mansion he once called home, Collinwood, and reuniting with what’s left of his family – a motley crew of descendants who have fallen on hard times, with the fishing industry not what it once was, and the family fortune dwindling away to nothing.

The family actually accepts their “Cousin Barnabas From Across the Sea” pretty easily. And he goes about restoring the family to its former glory, using a secret stash of jewels and gold hidden beneath the house, to renovate the mansion, and bring the abandoned family canning factory up to modern times. Barnabas even uses his powers of hypnotism to convince the local fishing boat captains to work for him instead of the woman who is the Collins family’s main rival, a woman who turns out to be Angelique, the very same witch who put Barnabas in the ground to rot!

MA: Barnabas Collins saving the fishing industry— suddenly, no drama!

LS: The rest of the movie revolves around Barnabas’s attempts to protect his family, and break the curse that Angelique has placed on him (and doing his best to spurn her advances). At the same time, the new nanny, who just joined the family, Victoria Winters (also Bella Heathcote), is also the spitting image of Barnabas’s beloved Josette . Is it a coincidence, or has his love been reincarnated in this new version to come back to him?

MA: How many times do we have to suffer through this tired plot point of the reincarnated love? I could just throw up.

LS: As I said earlier, the movie starts out fairly serious as Depp provides narration to the tale of how Barnabas ended up as a vampire beneath the ground. And then, during the opening credits, the young Maggie Evans decides to change her name to Victoria Winters as she rides a train to Collinsville, Maine, intent on becoming the nanny to the young David Collins (Gulliver McGrath).

MA: And she does this because..? I think she changes her name from Maggie Evans so the writers have an excuse to use the name, which of course, is the name of a character from the original series.

LS: How many names does this girl need? It gets confusing. Is she Maggie, Victoria, or poor Josette?

I thought it was interesting that during the train scene, as the opening credits role, the music we hear is “Nights in White Satin,” the classic tune by the Moody Blues. Despite being a love song, it’s rather somber, and sets a definite mood. I think it works quite well, even though I was very disappointed that the original music from the DARK SHADOWS TV show isn’t used at this point (or at all in the movie, for that matter).

The original DARK SHADOWS ran from 1966 to 1971. It started out as just another soap opera until, a couple of years into its run, the character of forlorn vampire Barnabas Collins was introduced (played by Jonathan Frid). Suddenly, the show became something of a phenomenon for several years. I remember when I was a kid, rushing home after school to watch DARK SHADOWS on TV. As the show went on, it introduced lots of other characters, including some that were ghosts, werewolves, and witches, as well as giving us storylines that took place in other time periods. It really was an exceptional television show for its time, and was created by the great Dan Curtis, who also gave us another one of my favorite TV show, KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (1974 – 1975), as well as the two Kolchak TV-movies that preceded it.

DARK SHADOWS, the TV show, has become a cult classic since then. And yes, there is a certain tongue-in-cheek campiness to it. Like most soap operas of the time, it’s very melodramatic. But it also had an incredibly small budget, which means that things went wrong a lot. Sets, often made of cardboard, would collapse. Actors flubbed their lines and it was kept in (either the shows were aired live, or they simply did not have the money to do more than one take). Sometimes the actors themselves even laughed at a particular mishap. But the majority of the time, they played it completely straight. If they’d only had better sets and a bigger budget, the show would have been much more effective in delivering chills – which was its true intention. How do I know this? Because during the height of the show’s popularity in the 70s, Curtis made two theatrical films based on the show, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970) and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (1971), featuring the same actors from the soap opera reprising their roles, this time with a slightly bigger budget, and certainly not played for laughs. The two films are definitely intended to be serious horror films.

For those of us who grew up on DARK SHADOWS, it’s a very fond memory. They even tried to reboot the show in 1991, when series creator Dan Curtis brought it back, this time in prime time, with Ben Cross as Barnabas. Unfortunately, that incarnation of the show only last 12 episodes.

And here is Tim Burton, trying to bring it back another time. And it really makes me yearn for the touch of Dan Curtis, because I think Burton gets it all completely wrong!

MA: You think?

LS: Perceived as a starring vehicle for Johnny Depp, an actor who I normally like very much, Tim Burton’s version of DARK SHADOWS seems a lot like a failed experiment to me. There were moments where I thought it was working, where I could see what Burton was up to. Unfortunately, these are few and far between. Because, for most of its running time, DARK SHADOWS is pretty awful.

MA: I’ll say! DARK SHADOWS is every bit as awful as I feared it would be. It’s horribly dull, and strangely, unimaginative. For a movie about vampires, witches, and family curses, what the hell is it doing spending so much time on the Collins family business and the fishing industry? Do I really care whether the Collins family business survives or not? What is this, DALLAS? It’s like a— soap opera. Which might be the funniest thing about this movie, that its plot inadvertently does play out like a soap opera. But guess what folks, it’s not a soap opera this time—it’s a movie! You don’t have five days a week to tell your story. You gotta get it done in two hours!

Jonathan Frid as the “real” Barnabas Collins in the original DARK SHADOWS TV series. “Look Ma, No Camp!”

DARK SHADOWS is a movie in desperate need of an identity. It doesn’t seem to know what it’s supposed to be. It’s not a good comedy, as the laughs don’t come anywhere near often enough, and it’s too over-the-top to be a serious thriller. It’s stuck in the middle, and as a result, it’s not a good movie.

I kept thinking, it’s as if Burton decided that no one’s ever going to take this story seriously, so let’s play it for laughs. I wish they had made a serious horror movie. It would have been much better. I was bored throughout most of DARK SHADOWS. It’s up there with Burton’s other misfire, the PLANET OF THE APES (2001) remake.

LS: While I do have problems with DARK SHADOWS, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as horrible as the APES remake. For fans of the original PLANET OF THE APES, Burton’s version is an insult.

But DARK SHADOWS is fatally flawed, and a big part of it is the cast. All of the actors here are quite capable, and yet, they all seem to be acting in different movies, even though they’re all here, in the same one. Some people, like Michelle Pfeiffer as Collins matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, play it completely straight, and do a good job of it.

MA: I agree. Pfeiffer plays it straight and is quite good as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, but it’s such a dull, boring role. Elizabeth Stoddard is about as interesting as a can of tuna.

LS: Other performances I liked included Chloe Grace Moretz (“Hit Girl” from KICK-ASS and she was also in LET ME IN, both from 2010) as Elizabeth’s teenage daughter, Carolyn and I liked Bella Heathcoate a lot as nanny Victoria Winters.

MA: I agree about Moretz. It’s amazing how terrific an actress she is at such a young age! Up there with Depp as Barnabas, she delivers the best performance in the movie, but Carolyn Stoddard is a small role, and she’s not in the movie enough to have much of an impact.

LS: With what little she has to work with, she does just fine. There are several actors here who have a lot more screen time, and who aren’t as interesting.

MA: But Bella Heathcoate? I found her terribly boring and unconvincing as Barnabas’s love interest. He might as well be in love with a painting, that’s how much personality she doesn’t have.

LS: And yet she seems perfect for Barnabas. A reserved, elegant woman with the manners of an earlier time. To everyone else she seems “square,” but to Barnabas she seems to be a dream come true.

Helena Bonham Carter (Burton’s real-life wife and a familiar face in all his recent films) also plays it mostly straight as the Collins’ live-in psychiatrist, Dr. Julia Hoffman. Although she does have a few scenes where she “camps it up.”

MA: Really? I thought Carter hammed it up throughout. I found her Dr. Hoffman incredibly irritating. I think she’s supposed to be a funny character, an eccentric doctor, but she comes off as a harsh medic in need of a drink every few minutes.

LS: However, Johnny Depp, as the main character of Barnabas, who is in almost every scene, plays the role in such an over-the-top and often silly way that he’s the elephant in the room that everyone else pretends not to notice.

MA: I disagree. I actually found Depp’s performance more subdued than I expected it to be.

LS: Are you kidding me? With his silly accent, his face glowing with white powder, and his incredibly silly mannerisms, it’s like he’s in a completely different movie.

MA: Well, I agree that his look is silly, but that’s Burton’s fault, not Depp’s.

LS: Everyone around him acts as if everything Barnabas does is completely normal (except for Chloe, who keeps telling him how weird he is). No one blinks when it is revealed he is a vampire. No one has a problem with the fact that he is completely unfamiliar with the modern world (well, the modern world of 1972). He sleeps upside down like a bat and brushes his teeth in a mirror that doesn’t show his reflection. How funny….well, not really. And his dialogue often includes several groaner jokes that are just painful to sit through.

MA: All true, but these are flaws in the script, and not Depp’s fault.

LS: But the script is a major part of what we see on the screen before us. And Depp, an actor who has proven in past films that he can transcend his material, instead wallows in it here.

Depp hams it up so much, I found myself really disliking him, which is a rarity for me. I get that Burton is going for complete campiness here. But the thing is—and this is something I’ve said many times about movies that try to be funny in a campy way—truly campy movies do not give us that nudge and wink that something funny is going on. The best campy movies play it completely straight and do not show us they are aware of the campiness at all. And Depp’s performance is so self-aware, so purposely out of step with everyone else, that he’s more annoying than humorous. Which makes the few scenes where Barnabas has to kill to get his precious nourishment of blood all the more bizarre. Why is this silly man suddenly slaughtering people?

MA: I have to disagree with you here, but only about Depp. I’m with you in terms of how this movie just doesn’t work. Believe it or not, I actually liked Depp as Barnabas. To me, he was acting exactly the way a person would act stepping into the 1970s for the first time after having lived in the 18th century. To that end, I actually found Depp playing it straight.

The problem is with Tim Burton’s interpretation of all this. If everyone else in the movie is dead serious, and the film actually looks like real life 1970s, then what Barnabas is saying and doing would be quite funny. He’d be a fish out of water—heh, heh— and he’d be believable when slaughtering people. He’d be a deadly vampire, with some of his scenes—because of his unfamiliarity with the 1970s—being funny.

But that’s not what we get at all. Burton might as well have remade THE MUNSTERS, because that’s what this movie looks like, but Johnny Depp is no Herman Munster.  He’s actually much more serious than that.  With just the right amount of tweaking, Depp would have made an excellent dramatic Barnabas Collins.

LS: Good observation, there. THE MUNSTERS is exactly what this movie reminded me of, a lot of the time. In that show, the monsters think they are completely normal, and yet the outside world is terrified of them, and reacts accordingly. In the DARK SHADOWS movie, Depp’s Barnabas is equally unaware of how strange he is—which is ironic as hell since Depp’s actual performance is incredibly self-aware.

MA: But I still liked Depp in the role. I feared it would be Captain Jack Sparrow with fangs. It’s not.

LS: He’s not the only one, but he is the most blatant one here who is constantly winking at the audience. Eva Greene, as Angelique, fluctuates between trying to be a straightforward villain, and being as silly as Depp is.

MA: I didn’t like Eva Greene as Angelique at all. Greene was so memorable as Vesper in the first Daniel Craig Bond film CASINO ROYALE (2006). Here, her Angelique is just annoying. She’s supposed to be driven by an insane love for Barnabas Collins. Insane is the operative word here. There’s a scene early on in the movie, where Angelique and Barnabas are children, and she’s looking at him with longing even then. That’s love? That’s insanity!

LS: Haven’t you ever heard of puppy love?

MA: As a result, Angelique is just a cardboard cutout of a villain without any real motivation.

LS: And Jackie Earle Haley is pretty much the Collins’ court jester as servant Willie Loomis—but that’s the one role that is forgivable, since Loomis was just as goofy in the old television series.

MA: No, he wasn’t! Willie Loomis was one of my favorite characters on the old DARK SHADOWS TV show. He was a tragic, tortured character. Haley plays him like a drunken dolt. He completely ruins the character.

LS: Some characters seem completely lost. Especially Jonny Lee Miller (who I first noticed as an actor back in 1996, in Danny Boyle’s TRAINSPOTTING), as family ne’er do well Roger Collins, who really doesn’t have much to do until he leaves half-way through. Roger’s young son David (Gulliver McGrath) is perhaps the most cheated character of all. His David seems to have some serious issues, not the least of which is the ghost of his mother, who drowned years before, and he has a lot of potential for a serious storyline, and yet, for most of the movie, he’s pretty much ignored. Another oversight is Bella Heathcoate as Victoria. Early on it’s evident that she’s supposed to be an important character. She is, after all, the reincarnation of Barnabas’s great love and he is determined to win her over anew. And yet there are huge chunks of the movie where Burton just seems to forget about her for awhile, in order to focus on more silliness.

The soundtrack is actually quite good, being loaded up with great songs from the late 60s and early 70s by the likes of the aforementioned Moody Blues, Iggy Pop, Donovan and Marc Bolan’s seminal band T. Rex, not to mention Barry White and the Carpenters, whose music is used to good effect.

MA: Yes, the soundtrack is one element of the movie that I actually really liked!

LS: Even Alice Cooper shows up to perform at a ball thrown by the Collins clan for the local townsfolk. Despite the fact that Danny Elfman is credited as composing the score for the film, his original music isn’t very memorable and doesn’t flex its muscles in the soundtrack, which might be a good thing, since many of his scores seem to sound very similar to each other, especially in Tim Burton movies.

MA: I liked Elfman’s music here. I thought it had some nice haunting elements to it.

LS: Nothing as haunting as Bob Cobert’s very atmospheric and spooky theme music from the original TV show. There really was no way Burton could have included it here somewhere?? I find that hard to believe!

MA: He probably thought it would be too spooky for this movie! I missed Cobert’s music, too.

LS: There are some interesting cameos. The great Christopher Lee plays an old sea captain – it’s always good to see Lee in a film.

MA: Absolutely! And his deep booming voice is still present, even as he nears 90! I am so absolutely impressed that Lee continues to work even today. Loved seeing him.

LS: And the end credits mentioned a scene featuring cameos by some of the original show’s actors as “guests” – including Jonathan Frid (the original TV Barnabas, who died a few weeks ago; as well as original Angelique, Lara Parker; and David Selby who had played Quentin Collins, another favorite character of mine from the original series). But, despite the three of them being credited at the end, I did not remember seeing them in the film.

MA: That’s because their cameo lasts all of two seconds. It’s the scene at the ball. The door opens and they’re in the doorway about to enter. As soon as I saw them I was like, “there they a—,” and then the camera cuts away, and they’re not seen again. It’s literally about two seconds long. Kathryn Leigh Scott, the original Victoria Winters, is also supposed to be there. I only had time to recognize Frid, and then they were gone.

LS: The script was by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also wrote the novel and script for the upcoming ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER as well as the novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. And he certainly has some responsibility in the script’s uneven tone.

MA: I’m going to disagree with you on that point. If you pay close attention to the dialogue, you’ll notice something interesting. It doesn’t really play like a comedy. It plays like the story of Barnabas Collins.

I blame director Tim Burton for this one. He purposely filmed this story like an over-the-top cartoon.

In another director’s hands, and with the same script, this could have been a serious horror movie with comedic overtones. Seeing Barnabas struggle in the 1970s would have been funnier if the rest of the movie had been played straight.

LS: I’m confused. Earlier, when I attacked Depp’s performance, you blamed the movie’s weaknesses on the script. Now you say it’s Burton’s fault. Which one is it?

MA: I agree that the script does have some problems, but Burton’s the main reason this one feels all wrong. The Collins mansion looks like something from THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Barnabas’s make-up looks like he belongs on a Walt Disney Halloween Special. And the characters look like they’re in an old Carol Burnett Show skit, but without the laughs.

LS: The “CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967 – 1978)?” What an obscure reference that will be for most of our readers.

MA:  They’ll live.

LS:  As for Barnabas’s makeup, I’m assuming that’s supposed to be funny, but I found it completely distracting and stupid. Jonathan Frid never looked so asinine in the original DARK SHADOWS show. It is like a cartoon.

And, I want to know, can Depp’s Barnabas move around in sunlight or not? There are several scenes where sunlight makes him spontaneously combust. And yet there are other scenes where he is walking around in the light of day with a hat and sunglasses. What about the exposed skin of his face? Is he suddenly immune? Or is this just bad writing? Shouldn’t he be in his coffin during the day, and only available to deal with business matters at night?

MA: I was so bored, I didn’t care.

LS:  As for Burton, I know some people idolize him, but his output has been uneven for decades now. While I still think movies like ED WOOD (1994) and SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999) are terrific, this is the same guy who also gave us the equally flawed MARS ATTACKS! (1996), as well as the completely abysmal PLANET OF THE APES remake from 2001. Which just goes to prove that, while Burton is certainly a very talented director, not everything the man touches turns to gold.

All in all, I thought DARK SHADOWS had an awful lot of potential, if Burton had simply not let Johnny Depp run wild. Burton seems to bring out the worst aspects of Depp’s acting, here and in roles like Willy Wonka in CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) and the Mad Hatter in ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010). Enough with the hamming it up already!

And where the hell did the “surprise” werewolf in the last big showdown scene come from?

There were a few things I liked about DARK SHADOWS, but a lot more that I didn’t care for. I give it one knife.

MA: I didn’t laugh much, so it didn’t work as a comedy, and it’s certainly not even close to being scary, so it’s not a good horror movie either. What is it, then? It’s like I said. It’s as if Burton set out to make a DARK SHADOWS cartoon, because that’s how it plays out. It more closely resembles the SCOOBY DOO cartoon seen briefly on TV at one point in the movie than the original DARK SHADOWS TV show, except that the SCOOBY DOO cartoons of yesteryear were better. They got the humor right.

LS: Yes, when Barnabas is watching that episode of SCOOBY DOO, he dismisses it as a “silly play.” And yet, the DARK SHADOWS movie has no more meaning or substance. In the end, it is also a “silly play.”

MA: I give DARK SHADOWS one knife, as well.

LS: We usually add a lot more jokes to our columns, but this one’s running kind of long. Besides, we don’t need any extra jokes this time, DARK SHADOWS is a bad joke all by itself.

MA: Care to jump now?

LS: I’d rather get a pizza.

MA: Me, too. Where’s the closest pizza joint?

LS: Down there. (Kicks MA off the cliff.) Life’s a bitch. Then you— fly. (Leaps off cliff.)

(CUT to MA and LS, hanging on to a floating pizza, slowly rising back up through air towards the cliff.)

MA: Gotta love these new pizzas with the self-rising dough!

LS: I wanted extra cheese!

MA: We’ll add that after we land.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives DARK SHADOWS~ ONE KNIFE!

LL Soares gives DARK SHADOWS~ONE KNIFE!

Friday Night Knife Fights: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON VS. THE HOWLING (Conclusion)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Classic Films, Friday Night Knife Fights, Werewolf Movies, Werewolves with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2012 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS:  THE HOWLING (1981) vs. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981)
PART 3 (Conclusion)
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back everyone to the third and final installment of our HOWLING vs. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON debate.  For the past two Fridays, our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters has been trying to determine which one of these werewolf classics is the better movie.  I’m joined, as always, by L.L. Soares; and L.L., our bout between these two films has become somewhat lopsided, as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF won the past couple of rounds and now leads THE HOWLING by a score of four rounds to one.

L.L. SOARES:  I’m not surprised.  While I like both movies a lot, I think we’re going to find that AMERICAN WEREWOLF is the better movie of the two.

MARK ONSPAUGH:  Don’t count your werewolves before they transform!  THE HOWLING is every bit as good as AMERICAN WEREWOLF and then some, and if you guys would listen to me, you’d understand why.

LS:  Be quiet, you!  We haven’t even introduced you yet!

MA:  That’s right.  L.L. and I are joined once again by Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato.  Thanks, guys, for being here on three successive Fridays.  Having fun?

MO:  Definitely.

NICK CATO:  Always a pleasure to talk about these movies.  And it’s a cheap date.

LS:  What?  No flowers?  No beer?

MO:  It’s been awesome, except my movie THE HOWLING hasn’t been doing that well in our debate.

MA:  That’s okay.  There’s still plenty of time left.  On that note, let’s get back to the business at hand.  It’s our final segment tonight, so before we go home this evening, one of these two movies will emerge as the winner.

On to Round 6.

The question is:  Which film is scarier?  Nick, let’s start off with you.

NC:  I found THE HOWLING much scarier than AMERICAN WEREWOLF.

MO:  Way to go, Nick!

NC:  But then again AMERICAN WEREWOLF was a dark comedy of sorts, so I’m not sure how scary it was trying to be.  But THE HOWLING is scarier.

LS:  I didn’t really find either movie all that scary, but I guess THE HOWLING is the more visceral story. There’s a clear-cut representation of good and evil. In AMERICAN WEREWOLF, that line is more blurred, and the movie also balances out horror and humor extremely well.

I think THE HOWLING is more scary in a “meat and potatoes” way. AMERICAN WEREWOLF, however, is more satisfying over all, in my opinion. But I give this one to THE HOWLING.

MA: I’m with you in that I honestly don’t find either film all that scary, and to me, that’s a weakness of both movies. I’d call it a draw, here.

MO:  THE HOWLING is definitely scarier.  Even if some of the characters weren’t werewolves, they’re not people you’d want to be stranded in the woods with.

MA:  That’s true.

Well, believe it or not, THE HOWLING won this Round as all three of you cited it as being the scarier film, and I called it a draw.  Round 6 goes to THE HOWLING.

MO:  Aaaawwwoooo!!!  THE HOWLING is coming back!

MA: Yep, it has closed the gap somewhat, but AMERICAN WEREWOLF still leads 4-2.

On to Round 7.

Which film, if any, belongs in the same conversation as older classics like THE WOLF MAN (1941) and Hammer’s THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961)?

LS:  Well, I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON definitely belongs in the same class as the older classics. It’s one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Even superior to something like CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1962).

MA:  Whoa! Hold onto your wolfsbane!

Better than CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF?  I don’t think so.

Oliver Reed in CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (1961), a great werewolf movie, but it really has nothing to do with this debate.

LS:  Who asked you? And since when is CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF such a cinematic titan?

MA:  Well, when ranking werewolf movies, I think it’s topped only by THE WOLF MAN.

LS:  That’s the problem  – you’re thinking again. As usual, you’re wrong.  I like CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, but both of the movies we’re discussing tonight are just as good, if not better.

MA:  I disagree, but that being said, since AMERICAN WEREWOLF is a contemporary, updated tale with a devilish sense of humor, it is the more entertaining movie of the two, but I like the werewolf make-up on Oliver Reed so much more than the werewolf in AMERICAN WEREWOLF.  It’s just the better werewolf movie.

LS:  AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON blows CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF out of the water.  Besides, what do you know?  Has HAMMER FILMS ever made anything you didn’t like?

MA:  I’m sure I could come up with one if I thought about it long enough.

MO: Hey guys, isn’t this a battle between AMERICAN WEREWOLF and THE HOWLING? 

LS: Yeah, since when did this turn into a debate about CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF?? If you want me to tear apart what’s wrong with CURSE, just say the word, because it’s far from a perfect movie.

MA: That’ll be a debate for another night.  Okay, let’s get back on topic.

LS (to MO):  You really like THE HOWLING, don’t you?

MO: Yes!

LS: And I have to say, I don’t want to completely bash THE HOWLING. The truth is, I like it a lot, too. While I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF is better, I think THE HOWLING is still a classic of the werewolf genre and belongs in the same group with THE WOLF MAN, too, especially if Arruda is including CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF in that group. So I would say that both THE HOWLING and AMERICAN WEREWOLF fit the bill as genre classics.

YAAARGH!


MA:  Well, regarding the two movies we’re discussing today, I strongly prefer AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF.   However, I’m not sure I’d include it in the same conversation with THE WOLF MAN or CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, which are my two favorite werewolf movies.

And I feel the same way about THE HOWLING.

The main reason?  The weakest links of both these movies are the werewolves in them.  Without decent werewolves in either movie, I can’t consider either one as a classic werewolf movie.  I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF is a notch below THE WOLF MAN and THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, and THE HOWLING is several notches below.

So, my answer is neither.

MO:  I completely disagree with you.

Both films pioneered makeup effects, and both have a tragic protagonist.  If you are having a conversation about important werewolf movies (as opposed to the dozens – it seems – HOWLING sequels or VAN HELSING) then you need to include both of these.

MA:  I think our answers just cancelled each other out.

MO: You’re killing me, man!

NC:  I’d include both, too.

MA:  Well, I say neither, and the three of you say both. So Round 7 goes to both movies.

LS: Give them each a point!

MA: Okay, so now AMERICAN WEREWOLF leads THE HOWLING 5 to 3.

It’s time for the Final Round, when we ask: All things considered, which one is the better movie?

Now, remember, just like in real boxing, even though one fighter may be ahead on points, he can still be knocked out in the final round.  So, there’s still hope for THE HOWLING.

MO: And how would that work exactly?

MA:  In this round, we’re picking which one is the better movie, and so if we all picked THE HOWLING, that would be considered a knock-out.  Mark, why don’t you get this final round started?

MO:  Except for Baker’s awesome transformation, the make-up on the victims (including a terrific decapitation) and Griffin Dunne’s hilarious portrayal of undead best friend Jack, I have to give it to THE HOWLING.  If the final werewolf in AMERICAN WEREWOLF had been better with more screen time—.  Naw, I’m still going with THE HOWLING.

NC:  Despite being a fan of horror comedies, I think THE HOWLING is the better werewolf film, as AMERICAN WEREWOLF is slowed down by a couple of non-wolf side-plots. So, like Mark here, I’m also picking THE HOWLING.

LS:  I think AMERICAN WEREWOLF is the better movie, hands down. But THE HOWLING has a lot going for it, too. I think the two films make a great double-feature.

MA:  No surprise here, I’m going with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.  It has the better script, the more memorable characters, and I like its story much better than the one told in THE HOWLING.  Both movies attempt to update the werewolf story to modern times, and both succeed, although AMERICAN WEREWOLF succeeds more.
Had AMERICAN WEREWOLF been able to include a scary, ferocious, and realistic looking werewolf in its movie, it would be one of my all-time favorite werewolf films.  I love everything about it except for the actual werewolf.

LS: Yeah, I gotta agree that the final werewolf is a letdown.

MA: So, our Final Round is a draw, as Mark and Nick chose THE HOWLING, while L.L. and I chose AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. So each one gets another point.

That means that our final tally is AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON –  6  and THE HOWLING – 4.

Which means the winner of tonight’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHT is AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON wins! Hurray!

LS:  As it should be.  It’s the better movie.

MO:  Nope.  It’s THE HOWLING, but I’ll concede that AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF OF LONDON is very good, and I can see why you guys chose it.  You’re just wrong.  (laughs).

MA:  Well, before we come to blows here, it’s time to say so long, because we’re out of time.  So for the final time tonight, thanks guys!

NC:  You’re welcome.

MO:  Any time.

LS:  Any place!  Especially if it has a bar!

MA:  I’m Michael Arruda, and on behalf of L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh, Nick Cato and myself, thank you all for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you next time on FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS!

Good night everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Nick Cato